As an active member of social media, I am well aware of its trends. I’ve never been prone to participate in Man Crush Monday or Throwback Thursday, but the fruits of those themes do delight me weekly. I’ll never complain about a Hemsworth photo cluttering up my newsfeed or the baby faces of best friends in 1990’s overalls staring from my screen. I don’t mind Facebook’s favoring of photo collages because I can appreciate the nostalgia they bring. The ongoing evolution of Twitter and Instagram hashtags refuels my faith in the boundless snark of those around me. And as for blogs, I think my wordpress-published words are indicative enough of my attitude.
It’s clear. Social Media and I, we’re chummy. However, there is a sliver of social media that irks me to my core every time I scroll across it. Perhaps I’m taking the phenomenon to mean a little more than most, but here goes.
“23 Common Words Only Midwest Folks Will Know”
“11 Signs of a Dangerous Friend”
“10 Reasons your Relationship is Over”
“50 Things I Want for my Little Sister”
“15 Totally Disgusting Habits that are Considered Totally Normal”
These are examples I happened upon in no more than 45 seconds of scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed . . . examples of the compartmentalized perception millennials seem to prefer. Fluidity has gone out of style. Articles are exhaustive. Bite-sized knowledge has arrived. Lists. Everywhere. 1. Lists. 2. Lists. 3. Lists.
Information is doled out into blurbs and blocks to chomp down bit by bit, because why? What is the deal?
In Journalism 1010, I was warned that the “Long-Form” would not withstand much longer; that as attention spans dwindled, so would the ability to reach an audience with more than 140 characters. Visiting professionals dazzled us with the multimedia means needed to ensure a message met its reader and emphasized the power of mobile-friendly material. These ideas, along with a growing appreciation for the hashtag, have reappeared in almost every Communication-related class I have taken. When asked for a creative way to reach an audience, my “most favorite” Public Relations pupils reply “Social Media” with as much immediacy as it takes to re-tweet Kim Kardashian, as long as they can put their Starbucks down long enough to raise a hand, anyway. And I think to myself, I take it we’re all using “creative” loosely these days.
Yes, I know I’m obscurely jaded for a twenty-one-year-old.
Information overload. Fast-paced work world. Need for instant gratification. Evolving technology. These justifications follow every study supplying the horrifying truth that the human attention span is, in fact, shrinking. Computers got smaller and so did our minds, turns out. We’re putting out portable, pocket-sized brains to make space in our heads for the devices that do our thinking for us. They just don’t make stretchy enough jeans to fit all those shiny gadgets. Not yet, anyway.
“We’re getting dumber.” That’s a fact. “Oh well.” That’s the consensus.
We’re not only accepting the degradation of our intelligence, we’re accommodating it. We’re cultivating it. We’re shrinking information into lists to avoid exerting too much thought or mental activity. We’re stripping away any need or ability to think independently by relying on the silver brains in our backpacks. We’re surrendering to making the same mistakes again and again by installing an auto-correct function wherever we can. We’re forfeiting the fight to challenge ourselves, because winning a game of Trivia Crack is satisfying enough.
What gets me most about all this . . . is wrinkle cream. Why do we apply wrinkle cream to our faces and pour protein powder into our milkshakes and inject botox into our cheeks and drip hair-dye onto our grays until our grandchildren are pumping nutrients into our IVs?
Why are we so afraid of our bodies’ natural degeneration, but not our minds’ synthetically-induced downfall?
I don’t know about you. I can handle the idea of a seventy-year-old’s sagging boobs, but not a twenty-two year old’s inability to read more than 140 characters.
Perhaps the truth is that humanity has always held an ample amount of stupidity. Perhaps my fear is simply that we have made it increasingly easier to indulge in that stupidity. Perhaps my fear is that since recently owning my own smartphone, I have done more snapchatting than writing. And that’s a personal problem.
Regardless, I stand by my belief in information transportation without a need for numbering.
For those of you who clicked on this post, expecting a segmented session of wit, I apologize. Paragraphs are the best I can do for you. And I applaud your ability to reach the end of my rant. If you have, thanks for proving it all wrong.